The Altar Guild
What Is The Altar Guild?
Historically, the Altar Society or the Altar Guild is run by a group of volunteer laypersons within the parish to care for the ceremonial objects of the church. The Altar Guild is an essential part of parish life, overseeing the maintenance of the altar fabrics, the Eucharistic cup and plates, the vestments, and more. Altar Guild members prepare the sanctuary for services, and clean up afterwards. Altar Guild members frequently supervise the decoration of the sanctuary of the parish with flowers.
The Rector is the head of the altar guild, which functions under his guidance and direction. The rector appoints the director of the altar guild and its members.
Altar Guild members should be congregants confirmed in the Anglican Church and should view their service as a sacred duty.
As written so beautifully by Josephine Smith Wood in her Altar Guild Manual, 1915, “Before entering upon work about the Altar, kneel a few moments at the Chancel rail, and, offering your work to God, ask Him to accept and bless it, and enable you to do it worthily as unto Him. It is a great honor and privilege to be allowed to care for the holy things in God’s house, and a devout spirit and reverent demeanor should characterize those who are thus engaged.”
Altar Guild Training, Responsibilities, Tasks
Altar guild members should receive instruction in ‘setting up’ for services, removal and cleansing of vessels and linens after the services, names of all the vessels, linens and vestments used in the church, liturgical colors and seasons, use of flowers, use of candles, church symbols, and parts of the church.
Altar guild duties include:
1. Making sure that the Sanctuary is dusted and cleaned thoroughly before and after services.
2. Placement of proper seasonal colors, hangings and falls.
3. Preparation of the Altar Table for services.
4. Preparation of the Credence Table/Shelf.
5. Arrangement and placement of fresh flowers (some churches have a flower guild for this).
6. Placement of the candles on the Altar Table and within the Sanctuary.
7. Ensuring that the priest’s vestments are cleaned, pressed and hanging in the Sacristy.
8. Care, preparation, cleansing, and storing of all the sacred vessels, linens, hangings, and candles.